Woman reading a Bible while drinking coffee.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Jael and the women in God’s narrative of humanity
I tell him about Jael because I feel that it’s important that my children learn about the undeniable importance of women in God’s narrative of humanity. In church so many of our sermons focus on Paul or David or Abraham. Perhaps Peter during Holy Week. There’s good chance that over the course of the year preachers will deliver a sermon about Mary, especially during Christmas, or Mary Magdalene, or Mary (there are so many Marys) and Martha. Perhaps Elizabeth, also during Advent. But what we lose is the glorious tapestry of the whole picture.
God continually and consistently moves the story along through the participation of women. The barren Sarah bears the first progeny of Israel (and must deal a lot with her husband’s many failings en route to that). Rebecca, underhandedly, shifts the blessing of Isaac onto Jacob. Jacob’s wife Leah, although unloved compared to Rachel, bears almost the entirety of the sons who will become the tribes of Israel. The midwives save Moses, who is then found by the Egyptian princess, rescued by his sister, and given back to his mother. These women are all critical characters, and we haven’t even gotten out of Genesis.
My list of women should not be taken as a list for the sake of lists. March is Women’s History Month and, as the church, we would be remiss to overlook the women in the Bible as many would have been overlooked in their time. Perhaps what is most remarkable is not that God chooses to work through women, but that these women mattered so much that they are included in the history of God’s working in the world. Perhaps the story of Jael is a bit much for a kindergartener, but to me, to leave her out is to omit a critical aspect of God’s working, a story that sidesteps the neat patriarchy that the world has been accustomed to since the beginning of time. I want my two-year-old daughter to grow up knowing her part of the family of God is just as important as any man’s.
“They didn’t talk about that other woman in class today, was she that important? Are you sure she was part of the story?” my son asks on our way home. I assure him that yes, Jael was a very important part of the story and that maybe his teachers only wanted to talk about Deborah. I’m disappointed but also proud that he knows Jael. It’s the small steps.